It is very important that kids feel heard. It is crucial to make our homes a safe haven for them to share their concerns and receive at least an acknowledgment. However, some kids misread this response and treat every single detail as news that needs to be heard. When do we draw the line? More important, how do we teach them to draw it themselves? Listening to siblings complaining and arguing all day long may throw any patience we possess out the door. Simultaneously, we cannot ignore their complaints, in case they are worth being heard.
Therefore, we should differentiate between telling and reporting. Telling is not needed but reporting is important. When our child tells us that another child is playing instead of cleaning the room, this would fall under the category of telling. When a child says that another child is chatting with a stranger on-line, then would be reporting. Reporting should be encouraged because it brings to our attention certain behaviors that our wisdom tells us trigger problems. Stories that fall under the category of telling don’t come with major consequences and can be easily figured out. In the example I gave earlier, the mother can easily tell that the child did not clean the room just by looking at it.
In most cases, mothers suffer from “he/she started it” dialogue. This is a very tough battle because you can only guess the victim. I’ve seen mothers punish both children and I’ve seen mothers giving up on seeking the truth. You should be able to uncover the truth by listening to your children’s private conversations when they think you are not listening. I know that Muslims have an ethical issue with that, but I believe a reasonable amount of investigation is needed once in a while. Also, keep in mind that when they come to you seeking a solution, they want a fair and understanding judge, And as that judge, you should collect good data. Siblings’ fighting has a pattern. It usually comes after a perfectly quiet moment between siblings where the mother’s instinct hears the storm before it starts. This is when she should tiptoe and stand quietly next to where the kids are to get the information first-hand. Do that two to three times, and you will be able to tell the victim better. It’s often not who you think it is.
Being the mother does not mean that you have to solve every problem between your kids. It simply means you should give them the tools to handle it themselves. You can tell your child to go and look her sibling in the eye and tell him/her to stop bothering her. You will be helping your child deal with situations instead of running to you. It will help develop her personality and make her a better person. If you feel that they both are equally wrong, I suggest you try to tell them they are not allowed to play together because they do not appreciate the blessing of having a brother or a sister. Within half an hour or so, you may become the enemy and they will try to play quietly. It worked for me and may work for you as well.
May Allah guide us all,
©Marwa Sabry 2010